Maybe This is a Christmas Sermon…

It seems like November 28 is my day to “do” Christmas. Facebook memories told me that last year and the year before, I DID Christmas. I woke up yesterday with the same urge and pushed until the packages were wrapped and the cards written, all the while telling Bear, “I hate this.”

Christmas always makes me feel like something is expected of me and I have to stop everything and DO Christmas. That’s a lifetime of training, childhood, of plane trips home, of this and that and the expectation that everything would change and presents and then? Dry pine needles all over the carpet and putting the lights back so they won’t tangle next year. I dunno… My Christmases as a single, family-less adult have been much better, sweeter, shorter, less predictable, but it is still something that has to be done.

I like Christmas cards, though. I saved that task as a reward for doing all the rest of it yesterday.

The reality of Christmas here is that it is Vvvvveeeerrrrrryyyyyy long. My friend’s boutique is the first weekend in November. The show at the museum happens at the end of November. The big (I use that term in a relative sense) parade is this coming weekend — the first weekend in December. Seriously by the time the actual DATE of Christmas rolls around I’m over it, or like, “What? You mean it hasn’t happened YET???”

I read a blog post last night about Black Friday and yeah, I don’t get it, either. My ONE experience with that nightmare was with the Evil X who was not one to layabout when there was money (mine) to spend. He decided he had to go to a particular (popular and immense) electronics store in San Diego on Black Friday. It was unreal. People were lined up for MILES to get into the store. I was a little happy (comparatively) to learn that it’s called Black Friday NOT because the forces of evil are making one last earnest attempt to capture souls, but because stores that have been in the red for months have a chance of operating in the black. It’s a major day for the US economy.

That’s sad. And I go back to my forces of evil comment. It’s not that no one needs to buy stuff or the sales aren’t good — I definitely benefited from them in my purchase of surfaces to paint on. But what’s the deal? What if prices were that low all the time? Would stores make money or lose it? I have no idea.

I had a little conversation with a friend recently about the question of wealth. He’s been out of work for a while (he has savings so it hasn’t killed him) and now he has a really good job that he likes. He was about to buy a computer. He asked me which one. I’m not the person to ask. I’ve been a Mac user since the 80s and while I’ve used PCs a lot, I am not likely to buy one. No special reason other than personal preference. “Buy the best you can afford.”

“But how do I know what I can afford?”

Then I tried explaining that the computer is REAL wealth while the money he buys it with is symbolic wealth and its value isn’t constant while the computer — as long as it works well — continues to have the same value over time. I told him I was exposed (??) exposed to that idea in my college ethics class. Our professor was an Anglican priest and one of our books was Alan Watts’ Does It Matter? I explained that idea was a major force in forming my adult values. I’m glad of that because I never went into a field that was going to bring in a lot of symbolic wealth!

So are all those rabid Black Friday sales an attempt by stores to be sure people have more REAL wealth in exchange for their symbolic wealth? I don’t know. I do know that people have bitched about the commercialization of Christmas at least since 1952 when I was born. And then they talk about the “true meaning of Christmas” as if that discussion would compensate for all the shopping? I don’t know or really care. For me Christmas is a quotation from the Bible that I’ve loved all my life and which (it seems) I did not properly understand until a few years ago — apparently. More on THAT to follow.

It’s a strange thing for a person who’s written four novels centered on Christianity that I’m not exactly a Christian. As Goethe said of himself, “I’m not anti-Christian, I’m not unChristian, I’m simply not Christian.” I’m just grateful that the people around me are OK with that. And why not? For the very reason I’m not sure about the quotation any more. It’s the scene (Luke 2:8…) where the shepherds are out there with their livestock guardian dogs and their sheep. The angels show up and scare the shit out of the shepherds, but it works out in the end. Here’s the Wycliffe Bible:

And shepherds were in the same country, waking and keeping the watches of the night on [upon] their flock. And lo! the angel of the Lord stood beside them, and the clearness of God shined about them [and the clearness of God shone about them]; and they dreaded with great dread. And the angel said to them, Do not ye dread; for lo! I preach to you a great joy [lo! soothly I evangelize to you a great joy], that shall be to all people.  For a Saviour is born to day to you, that is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.  And this is a token to you; ye shall find a young child wrapped in `clothes, and laid in a feed-trough [and put in a cratch]. 

And suddenly there was made with the angel a multitude of heavenly knighthood, praising God, and saying, 

Glory be in the highest things to God, and in earth peace be to men of good will.

And it was done, as the angels passed away from them into heaven, the shepherds spake together, and said, “Go we over to Bethlehem, and see we this word that is made, which the Lord hath made, and showed to us.”


I read a newer version of this verse that implied that God’s gift was ONLY for the chosen people, not all men of goodwill and, since I don’t have my fancy-schmancy English Hexapla (six translations of the Greek into English, headed by the Greek; greatest book of my life) any more (Ariel — my wolf dog — destroyed it when I was traveling and she was angry) I can’t check the Greek. Christian or not (in the normal sense) I love those shepherds and how they rushed over (with their sheep, of course) to check out the doings in Bethlehem. Really a peace offering from God is no small thing. And, I have chosen (since it seems people can change/reinterpret the meanings of words in the Bible at will) to believe that light in the darkness is offered to ALL people of goodwill. And why “people of goodwill”? Synonyms include compassion, kindness, openness to others. It’s not all that elitist after all.

No Lead in My Studio (So far…)

Yesterday I went to the museum in Del Norte to collect some money and restock my notecard offerings. It was a good weekend for me financially, and I was able to buy surfaces to paint on. Not the BIG canvas, but some pretty good sized panels and a linen canvas. With all drugs, you can be happy with “cheap Mexi” until someone gives you something better. Last summer I painted on oil-primed linen and I don’t think I’ll ever be the same woman.

It’s a small painting — 8″ x 10″. It turned out that this oil-primed linen is a wonderful, wonderful surface. For the last little while I’ve been trying to figure out how I could organize this technology myself, stretching and priming my own canvas, and it turns out I don’t want to. A lot of the stuff that becomes paint and related substances is poisonous. Some of it is very poisonous. I had to draw a line. Sometime down the road? I don’t know but for now…

The woman who runs the museum is also my friend and as you might know if you read this blog regularly, she lost her husband this past summer. They were married for 58 years. I’ve been listening/talking to her about it all this time and, recently I’ve heard something different in her voice which is she is beginning to see what she CAN do now; she’s looking into the future.

I spent some time Thanksgiving chatting with a friend in Switzerland who lost her dog not long ago. Through a lovely concatenation of events, she has a puppy, but the emptiness of the loss is still eating her up. I can imagine — but don’t know — people saying “She was just a dog,” and the kinds of things people say when losing an animal is out of their experience. Obviously, I don’t feel that way, but I have lost 25 dogs so I have a lot of experience losing and recovering.

As I was talking with my friend at the museum I tried to encourage her recent decisions to paint her house and travel to Europe (yay!) with the salient point that we live here and forward. I remember the moment I realized that. It wasn’t all that long after my mom died. I was opening the garage door and suddenly had an epiphany that my eyes were in front of my face for a reason. The same with my Swiss friend. Nothing replaces what we’ve lost, but it seems to me that even in calm and ordinary times, we’re a slightly different person every day than we were the day before. A big loss hastens the transformation.

I think that’s part of the sorrow, strangely enough. We don’t just lose the person/dog we loved, we lose the part of ourself who was (in a way) an attenuation of that person/dog. I recognized quickly when I had to put my last Siberian Husky, Lily, to sleep that it marked the end of trail-running Martha even though I hadn’t been able to run for a while. The possibility of that person existing was completely gone with Lily’s passing. I didn’t just lose my beloved — and very old! — dog; I lost a big part of myself, or the way I saw myself.

These recent weeks — selling paintings and confronting the inner Wicked Witch of the West — I have realized I’ve held onto my mom without even knowing it. Part of my trauma with selling a painting to strangers was letting go of yet one more finger of that woman whom I loved in spite of everything.

Lamont and Dude Discuss Human Limitations

“Where you going, Dude?”

“Meeting up at the museum.”

“OH! Does that mean your second iteration as a Smilodon — albeit this time only a costume — is about the recommence?”

“Could be. I don’t know. I just hate that they have meetings on Saturdays. I don’t see why. The museum is busy as hell on Saturdays.”

“You keep expecting rationality from this particular group of humans.”

“You’re thinking that’s irrational?”

“Yeah, but you know, we’re part of this groups so…”

“Good point. And strangely tolerant from you.”

“I’ve had the last year or so to think about this species of which we find ourselves.”

“Do you think humans have ever been more rational?”

“No. I was reading about the Black Death. They did everything they could to make it go away, but they didn’t know HOW to make it go away. But, to their credit, they did what they knew. And they didn’t know shit, Dude. There were painters back then who painted against the Black Death. What’s a painting going to do?”

“Ah. You’re humbled, Lamont. I never imagined.”

“Take it from me, Dude. 99% of what people do they do just to get from day to day. That’s it. Like this Black Friday business. What’s that about?”

“Oh stores think they might finally make some money.”

“Consumerism is a way of getting through the day. That’s all it is and then there’s that brief moment when they have gotten something and they have a kind of buyer’s high — you know what that is, Dude? Think back to the good old days.”

“Sure I know what that is. It’s how I felt when my family and I drove you into the tar pits.”

“I’m sure you did but then? Then? Tell me what happened Dude.”

“I don’t really feel like it. I gotta’ go.”

“C’mon.”

“OK. I landed in the tar pits.”

“Heh heh heh. What goes around comes around.”

“Lamont, that wasn’t just whimsical killing. You were going to feed us for MONTHS. Smilodons starve too.”


Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a few years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past incarnations which gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything.

Ode to My Furnace

I love my furnace. However strange that might sound, after eleven years with a wood stove (which worked great!) it’s a wonderful thing to have a thing in the house the does the work itself. My house was built in 1928 or so and it’s a small house. It has LITERAL central heating. There are two bedrooms off the living room and the furnace sits in the true center of that part of my house. When my house was built, the kitchen would have had a wood/gas stove so if anyone needed to heat that? Light the stove.

But the furnace. The first night I spent in my house — in 2014 — it got cold enough that the furnace kicked on. ALL BY ITSELF!!!! With a clunk that reminded me of my grandmother’s old house. It was the loveliest sound. I didn’t have to go out in the rain and snow to bring in fuel. All I had to do was set the thermostat and wait. It doesn’t need electricity so if the power goes out, I have heat.

O Brave New World.

The wonderful thing is they still make these furnaces. To put some other system in this house would be very difficult. I wouldn’t even want it. I guess I’ve developed a personal loyalty to this thing, but, you know, it’s kept me warm for 7 years. IMO, that’s a good relationship. In the really cold part of winter, I supplement its heat with space heaters in the bedrooms and kitchen.

I’ve thought a lot about that meeting in Scotland and how, in days past, people didn’t have (or make) these problems. I know that had DIFFERENT problems, but in pre-consumerist times? Drink the soda, put the bottle in the rack to be sanitized and reused. Same with milk. Too many glass bottles? Crush them and make sidewalks out of them. I don’t know. Meat and methane? I (briefly) dated a bio-gas scientist guy. He was helping farmers electrify their farms from cow shit. No, he didn’t stink, except his personality kind of stunk. “You’re not getting any younger, you know. Why won’t you go out with me?” Pick up lines like that, dude…

Anyway, if you’re interested in a different perspective on the COP26 check out my friend Sharon O’Toole’s blog, Ladder Ranch. She and her husband were invited to Scotland to contribute the point of view of people with a working livestock ranch. They have some other credentials, too. Sharon is the woman whose book I illustrated this past spring, in case the name rings a bell. She’s a fine writer and the posts are informative and highly readable.

Dogs and Thanksgiving

Yesterday Bear and I went out to the Refuge. As I headed to the spot where we usually park (a small pull out) I noticed a large bird perched on one of the lonely trees. “Red Tailed Hawk,” I murmured to Bear who couldn’t care less and she’s right. Labels? I noticed a car parked at the pull out just before ours and, thinking the person might be enjoying the bird, I drove very slowly and very quietly past the bird who didn’t ruffle a feather. I parked. Opened my door quietly and took this:

I let Bear out the side door, quietly, and we began our ramble. She trolled the edges of the road for smells. I just looked at everything, the ever changing light and scenery of this Valley I love so much. Snow fell over the two mountain ranges but none in the valley. It’s been a strange little bit of time, these past couple of years, and the refuge has been my refuge as well as a refuge for the animals. Sometimes I’ve gone out there just in time to see a huge ascension of Sandhill cranes or a herd of  Mule deer staring at me through the falling snow. I’ve watched all kinds of raptors hunt, swooping and diving. All of it. I love it. One thing I know about it is that when I go, I will see something. A rainbow in the Virga. Tracks of deer families in the snow, an elk running in the distance, coyotes yipping at sunset, a great horned owl family in a huge old cottonwood. But one thing I NEVER expected to see at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge on a chilly November afternoon was a couple from Beijing. 

Their car approached us on the road as we were on our return ramble. It pulled to one side to let us pass. When a car approaches, Bear and I always go to one side, too, so there was a little of a stalemate. I looked at the license plate. It was a vanity plate from an east coast state, an Anglicized version of a common cat name in Chinese. Hmmmm…..

We continued to wait and finally, they drove by and the driver — woman — waved and then bowed her head to me in a completely Chinese way. 

“Oh my god, Bear! Who would have thought?” I was stunned. I had a lot of things on my mind, one the reading from my China book at the museum in two weeks. Somehow, seeing the Chinese woman was an affirmation, anyway, it was pretty remarkable. We got in the car and headed out. The red tailed hawk was flying low over a pond looking at the edges for something to eat. Just a couple weeks ago we saw a tiger salamander. I thought, “I hope you’re hiding, little guy.” I don’t take sides out there (kill or be killed) but I don’t want my “personal” salamanders being dinner for my “personal” red-tail hawks, not when I’m watching, anyway. I drove very, very slowly so I could watch the hawk without disturbing him. 

Finally, at the far end of the loop, by the ponds and the way out, I saw the Chinese people’s car parked where they could watch the birds. I stopped and put my window down. The woman walked up to my car. 

“Are you from China?” I asked.

She looked surprised. “Oh, some 30 years ago.”

“I was living there 30 years ago — no, wait — 40 years now.”

“Where?

I answered in Chinese, “Zai Guangzhou.”

“Ah Guangzhou,” she said. “We are from Beijing.”

“I visited Beijing.” She was looking at me clearly wondering why I was living in China 40 years ago. “I was teaching at — wait, maybe I can do this. Hua Nan Shi Fan Da Xue.” I’d pronounced it right, but I knew the tones were wrong. The most difficult thing about speaking Chinese is getting the tones right. You can say very strange things to people by getting the tones wrong. “How are you?” can become “You good horse.”

She looked perplexed for a moment then, “Ah ah,” she repeated it pronouncing it right. 

“South China Teachers University.’

“You remember how to speak Chinese.”

“A little,” I said. “I haven’t had a lot of chances to speak Chinese in the past 40 years.”

Her husband came closer and bowed toward me a polite gesture from another place, another time. 

“When I saw your license plate, I knew you must be from China.” I smiled.

“It is our cat’s name.”

“I know.” 

She laughed. “We’re on a trip!” she said. She explained they were from the east coast and were driving all the way to California then back by a different route. “It’s so good to be traveling again.”

“I haven’t been out of the valley in a long time,” I said. I don’t know why I WOULD leave, but…

“It’s very beautiful here. Are you a long timer?”

“No, not really, seven years. It’s a small world.”

“It’s amazing we meet here,” she said. It was absolutely amazing. There was not another person anywhere around and that’s how it usually is, particularly this time of year. I imagined they had hoped to see cranes, but the cranes left a week or so ago. She asked about my dog, so I introduced her to Bear. We said a few more things. Then, I said, “Zai jian, zia jian.” Good bye. “Have a safe and beautiful trip.”

Xie xie,” she said. Thank you.

Bu ke xie,” I answered. No thanks needed.

“Oh!” she said, putting her hands together, “You remember!”

Oh yes, I definitely remember. ❤️

Bear and I got home and I did the things I needed to do around the house. Since 1988, hiking with a dog has been my Thanksgiving tradition and expression of gratitude, but I’m not sure I can have a better Thanksgiving walk than I had yesterday.

I didn’t even have a dog until 1988 when I got Truffleupagus (Truffle) from my neighbor’s front yard. She was a five-month year old lab/springer mix, and I didn’t know anything about raising a puppy. I’d wanted a dog ALL MY LIFE and, at 36, I finally had a dog of my own. I raised that dog in ways I would never raise a dog today, but live and learn is the rule of human life.

That November the Good X read in the paper that there was fall color in San Diego. We both missed seasons (we’d only lived in San Diego 4 years) so we took the advice of the newspaper, and, on Thanksgiving day, 1988, I made my first trip out to Mission Trails Regional Park, though it wasn’t a park yet. There was the historic dam built by Father Junipero Serra, a parking lot, a bridge over the river and then you were on your own.

We parked at the lot by Old Mission Dam and walked the trail described in the newspaper. It runs along the pond/lake made by the dam then crosses a bridge. Beyond that bridge is a whole world of indigenous San Diego County, but we didn’t go far or look around much. We just found a place to perch beside the trickle that was the San Diego River. Truffle was a still just a pup, but she seemed to like all the smells and, a springer/lab mix, she loved the water. Twelve years later, in the last hour of her life, I took her there to smell and walk as far as she could before we made the sad trip to the vet.

The river was lined with golden cottonwood and willows. Some of the leaves, fallen and bruised, sent forth an aroma I had known all my life, giving me an instant sense of “home.”

I returned the next day with Truffle. On this visit, we crossed the road from the parking lot and tried an uphill hike. I was not in good shape, and the landscape and plant life were unfamiliar. I learned how much LONGER a hike seems when the features of the environment are completely new.

Truffle and Molly in the Solstice Circle that was once on top of S. Fortuna Mountain 1993

Truffle and I went back every day the weather allowed, which, in Southern California, was most days. I had not yet learned the joy of hiking in “inclement” weather, or what the chaparral offered the hiker willing to climb a hill in the rain. 

Each day my dog and I went a little higher up the trail. In time six dogs and I would all go together for hours rambling the winding trails of Southern California’s wild landscape. I learned the four seasons of the chaparral, but even more about myself. The biggest thing I learned about nature (life?) is that no trail is the same trail twice, even if it’s a flat dirt road on an ancient lake bed. The important thing is to go. Otherwise there is no chance at all to see.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who celebrate it. I’m very thankful for this community. It’s a wonderful thing, far more so than I imagined when I started eight years ago. ❤️

P.S. There’s no prompt word in this post. I’m sorry. But the occasion for arms akimbo just didn’t happen in any of these events.

Political Musings

Thanksgiving is upon us (yikes!). My favorite Thanksgiving was probably my first one in my house in Descanso where all kinds of friends showed up and my friend Kris helped me cook and clean up. We put the turkey in, headed up to the Lagunas for the Thanksgiving hike (my personal tradition), then came home to finish up everything and welcome company. I wish I had photos of that, but it was before cell phones had cameras.

I am, this morning, thankful I don’t have to go to the store on my way home from school (work) to get cranberries or anything else. That said, it was always fun to wander into the supermarket that was crammed with shoppers — also on their way home — and look for that ONE thing. One year my friend Adriano and I were met in the canned fruit aisle by my Iranian colleague and her insistent recipe for cranberry relish (the best — mix the cranberries with orange marmalade…) Naja was amazing, brilliant, passionate and wise in matters of cranberry relish.

Possibly tomorrow on this blog I’ll delve into Thanksgivings loved and lost, but last night I read a short op-ed in The Atlantic that said, essentially, that in spite of the good work Brandon (President Biden) has done in the short time he’s been president, his approval rating is abysmally low. The article says “Biden needs an enemy” (other than Lauren Boebert) around whom the American people could unite to protect their president and that, “If he wants to win reelection…he needs to shed his nice-guy persona.”

My suspicion that politics in this country is a team sport (like Rollerball) was confirmed by that op-ed piece. I see it as a conspiracy of team mentality vs. individual achievement. I think anyone should be really happy to have a nice guy president who quietly goes about the business of running the country. The team mentality obviates that.

I am not now and have never been much of a team player, more an individual sports kind of person, track in particular and, well, baseball, which is a team sport in which individuals contribute, uh, individually. Hiking, trail-running, all that? A person does that alone (with dogs in my case). I never really got the team sport mentality in spite of joining pep club in high school and cheering on the Mitchell Marauders.

The other thing is a second-term? I think the biggest mistake Biden could make would be hauling his geriatric (yet spry) ass up for re-election. The Dems really need to come up with a young, intelligent, well-spoken, unifying, male candidate with awesome leadership skills who could win. Seriously.

(“Thanks for sharing, Martha,” says the DNC. “We’ll be sure to follow your advice to the LETTER.”)

Thanks for your understanding and support yesterday with my very personal post (“Poor me. I sold a painting.”) I hesitated about posting it but then I thought, “Am I the only person?” I knew I wasn’t, but… Thank you. There’s always the possibility when dealing with land mines that you’ve stepped on the last one but more important, when you step on one (and don’t die) it means you’re moving forward. ❤️

Featured photo: Lily T. Wolf and me in 2012 on the Garnet Peak Trail in the Laguna Mountains (CA), Thanksgiving hike with stepson and his wife. Another great Thanksgiving.

Maybe I’m Not the Only One???

The other day I sold a painting to a stranger, a nice young couple who were in love with all my work and spent a long time looking at all of it. It was the opening of a holiday art show at the local museum in Del Norte, Colorado. 

I have never sold a painting to a stranger before, not in those circumstances, face-to-face. I found it weird, embarrassing, uncomfortable. I don’t think I showed that. On an abstract level I was able to be THE ARTIST, but I turned the conversation away from my work to them. It was a way out. 

By the time I got home from the event I felt very strange. It took a while to understand WHAT I was feeling. 

I was feeling ashamed. 

It’s a “thing” to blame our parents for our neuroses so I don’t feel so good moving into that territory right now, but here I go. 

I have always been an artist, specifically a painter. I have loved painting since I was a LITTLE kid. Among my dad’s souvenirs was a pencil drawing I did when I was 6 or so presumably of myself as a grownup. I’m standing in a big room. I’m wearing a long dress (like all little girls want). Behind me is a window and from the window you can see a mountain range. All around the woman (me) are sleeping dogs. In front of me is an easel with a landscape on it.

And here I am. THAT lady. The three things I love most in my life are dogs, mountains and painting. I always wanted to be an artist, have dogs and live in the mountains. 

I don’t know how we come into this world, if we come in with a pre-programmed job description (like the Dalai Lama) or if it’s completely random. I SENSE there’s more to it than being completely random and in my case it certainly has been. I have always known who I am but not how to get there. Who tells us that the self is a destination, in the sense of destiny? I fought hard several times for my own survival; as a kid against diseases, as a woman against abusive men. Until my therapist (long story) explained to me (after listening to me for hours) HOW I’d been raised, I didn’t fully understand that my home was an environment in which I’d been used as a scapegoat to enable my mom’s alcoholism and that I would — naturally — feel more comfortable in environments where I’m not appreciated and even treated badly. 

Most of all, my mother hated that I am an artist. She hated it vocally and publicly and all her life. When she died, I found some of my work rolled up and stashed in the guest room closet. I also found a couple of small drawings in a scrapbook of clippings about me and my life. The woman had (obviously) no clear perspective about her feelings for me. I can’t say the same about my feelings for her.

I don’t have any feelings for her. I have somehow integrated both the good and the bad from that woman and live it every day. The good is good. If she’d lived in MORE of the good about herself she might not have been bitter, angry, hateful and drunk. The bad? It’s landmines and I stepped on one Saturday when those people bought my painting and rhapsodized over my work. I realized that though I’ve sold several paintings, they had all been bought by people who know me and like me. On some level my mom’s voice has said, “Well, they like you, so they bought your painting. I don’t know why they like you, but they do. If they knew you like I do, they wouldn’t have bought your painting.”

She actually DID say things like that. Publicly. Until she died.

SO my job is to get her to shut up by recognizing that I know a lot about painting. I’ve looked at paintings all over the world and done a lot of other things to “self-teach” myself. I’ve written a prize winning novel about a medieval painter. I like my paintings — not just doing them, but looking at them. I’m interested in how to do them and what I learn from them. I have painted since I was a child. It’s not a new thing. And, most of all…

Learning More about Being an Artist

the first imperative is to work. That much I get. But today, I sold another painting and learned more.

Don’t worry; I’m not freaking out. I know the person I sold it to, not really well, but still I know her. This morning I took a painting to the museum to hang where the one that sold Saturday had hung. The buyer works at the museum and wanted to see it so she followed me when I hung it.

“It’s the river,” I said. “Frozen, mostly.”

“Uh-huh.”

“The paint, though. Yeah. It’s special.” I told her all about where the pigments had come from and that I had seen them “in the wild.” I told her about the prehistoric “Buon” fresco I’d seen in the limestone cliffs north of Verona where the green in this painting “grows.” “All these colors,” I said, “except for that lighter blue there and the white, come directly from the earth. Well this color,” I pointed at some burnt Sienna, “was heated to bring out the iron color.” I pointed at the highest part of the sky and told her about ultramarine and lapis lazuli, how special it is, how expensive in olden times. I told her about the book I wrote about the artist who painted fresco. Then she said, “I want this painting.”

She went to the bank and came back with the money. “I love it, but hearing you tell me about the colors makes it mean even more.”

That made sense to me. Colors are miraculous. “It’s all dirt,” I said, “everything we are, everything we eat, all of it, all these beautiful things.” I personally see it all as miraculous.

Talking to a customer THAT way is totally possible and made me happy. It’s part of what my paintings are; part of who I am.